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Waikato tradies, customers chasing project manager for their money

Aaron Collings has been painfully slow finishing renovations for Roy Vellara and Lee Varayadan, but they have this neat hack for dealing with one problem.

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It turns out other tradies are also owed money by the man. Source: Fair Go

The Hamilton couple play music off a smartphone whenever someone’s in the loo, so people know it’s occupied.

Handy when they didn’t have doors or walls in that bathroom for nearly five months.

Irritating when their Huntly-based project manager had told them that the whole job, splitting the bathroom in two, would only take a week to ten days.

“Honey was coming from out of his mouth,” Roy Vellara effuses to Fair Go. He hired Aaron Collings on the strength of his confident pitch, after viewing his Facebook Page, Tradies On Demand.

His offer is appealing; a one-stop shop for jobs that require multiple trades.

Roy was initially doubtful - Aaron wanted to quote his job via video message with Roy walking around the 120-year-old bungalow he and Lee are restoring. When Aaron Collings did visit, his words and enthusiasm swayed the couple – as did an $11,000 quote that was $6,000 cheaper than the competition.

Roy and Lee paid Aaron Collings a 50% deposit up front and later handed over more than 50% of another job installing wood panelling. All up he has paid $12,000 and still has one barely functional bathroom.

Roy says Aaron claimed to be an electrician and removed light fittings and electrical fixtures from their bathroom when he demolished it.

Roy Vellara and Lee Varayadan. Source: Fair Go

He has admitted to Fair Go that he rewired a light switch. That is prescribed electrical work; but Aaron Collings has never held a license or registration with the Electrical Workers Registration Board. He knows why he should. In 2020 the EWRB successfully prosecuted Aaron Collings for doing work that was faulty and electrically unsafe, while on a trainee certificate and working unsupervised. He was fined $3000 plus costs. 

So, shouldn’t he know better?

“No comment my friend, yeah I know what you're doing, you're grasping up straws here,” Aaron Collings told Fair Go.

Fair Go also wanted to know about a $13,000 deposit he took for work he never really started for a family in Te Kauwhata. Scott and Nicole Scheepers hired Aaron Collings to manage and deliver a renovation before they moved into their first home. The start was held up while they await results from a methamphetamine test of the house Aaron said was necessary and a plumber disconnected the water on his request, but when Scott and Nicole wanted to question some of his costs, Aaron withdrew his trades and refused to refund the couple.

“I'll refund with an apology and I want it in writing for the lies that they did on, on Facebook, 'cause it’s affected my business,” Aaron Collings told Fair Go, claiming the couple had created fake profiles online to defame him and his work.

Scott Scheepers denied that – he says he did post negative reviews online and had mentioned their situation to the tradies they had to hire at additional cost to do the work they had pre-paid Aaron Collings to start.

Nicole is wistful – the costs complicated other woes and they sold their first home within months to recoup them, instead of settling in for a new chapter of their life.

“Looking back now I would have definitely done more homework, looked at reviews, looked in at tradies that are highly recommended gotten more advice from people that are in the market and I wouldn’t have been so hasty in my decision,” Nicole shared with Fair Go and anyone wanting to learn from their experience.

They’re taking a case against Aaron Collings to the Disputes Tribunal - as is Hamilton builder Shane Withey. Aaron Collings sub-contracted his firm A1 Building and Construction, but according to a document seen by Fair Go, Aaron has so far paid less than $4,000 for almost $38,000 of work completed.

“If I don’t see my money, so be it, but he needs to stop trading and he needs to be held accountable as well,” Shane Withey told Fair Go.

Plumber Nick Whelan says he’s still owed $12,000 for $16,000 of work his business did for Aaron Collings.

“If you were starting out, man, that could sink you,” Nick told Fair Go.

Both men spotted the same pattern. Their first and smallest jobs of a few thousand dollars were paid on time, but larger jobs that lasted longer and for which they billed Aaron Collings at the end were not paid. They worry for less established tradies who Aaron Collings may hire, if he continues not to pay up.

Roy Vellara says after he gave Aaron Collings an ultimatum to finish the job by a set date or not return, he has heard no more from him. He’s hiring other workers and getting that wiring inspected.

The EWRB would not confirm if it has an active investigation into Aaron Collings, but Duncan Conner the Registrar, Electrical Workers told Fair Go: “We strongly encourage anyone with concerns about a company or a person/s who were not authorised or licensed to undertake electrical work to make a complaint, which will be investigated.”

From complaint to sentencing it took over two years to hold Aaron Collings to account for doing unsafe and faulty work.

He remains confident he has done nothing wrong since, telling Fair Go:

“I have an answer for everything, because everything that I'm saying is true.”